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Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942 - September 18, 1970) was a Blues/rock guitarist, Top 40 act and an undisputed guitar innovator whose recordings during the psychedelic era helped to redefine the sound of the electric guitar.

Following a medical discharge from the 101st Airborne Division (from a broken ankle after a parachute jump), Hendrix, who had been playing guitar (lefthanded) since childhood, initially made his living supporting touring soul and blues musicians, including Curtis Knight, B. B. King and Little Richard during 1965. His first notice came from appearances with The Isley Brothers, notably on the two-parter Testify in 1964.

By 1966 he had his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, and a residency at the Cafe Wha? in New York City. While with the Blue Flames, he was discovered by Chas Chandler, of British rock group The Animals, who brought him to England, where Chandler as the record producer helped Hendrix form a new band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

After a few concerts, the band started to gain a reputation amongst their contemporaries, impressing Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, as well as members of The Beatles and The Who, who signed him to their record label. This promise was borne out in their first single, a cover of Hey Joe, a stylized blues song that was virtually a standard for rock bands at the time.

Further success came with the follow-up, the incendiary original Purple Haze, whose heavily distorted guitar sound would be highly influential for the next 20 years and ballad The Wind Cries Mary. These three songs were all Top 10 hits. 1967 also saw the release of the group's first album, Are You Experienced, whose mix of melodic ballads (Remember), pop-rock (Fire), psychedelia (Third Stone From The Sun) and traditional blues (Red House) would prove the template for much of their later work.

At the instigation of Paul McCartney the band were booked for the Monterey Pop Festival, and the concert, with burning guitar, was immortalised by filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker in his film Monterey Pop. The Montery festival was seen as a triumphant homecoming. This was followed by a short tour opening for the pop group The Monkees who asked for him simply because they wanted to see him play, but the Monkees audience didn't warm to Hendrix and he quit the tour just as Purple Haze began to chart.

Meanwhile back in England, Hendrix's wild-man image and musical gimmickry (such as appearing to play guitar with his teeth) continued to garner him publicity. 1967 also saw the release of his second album. Axis: Bold as Love was in the vein of the album Are You Experienced, with tracks such as Little Wing and If 6 Was 9 showing his continuing mastery of his instrument.

The second, the 1968 double album Electric Ladyland, was more eclectic and experimental, featuring a lengthy blues jam (Voodoo Chile), the jazz inflected Still Raining, Still Dreaming and what is probably the definitive version of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower. (Hendrix credited British band The Alan Bown for inspiration on the arrangement.) The recording of the album was extremely problematic, with Hendrix's work habits becoming erratic and a studio filled with his hangers-on caused longtime producer Chandler to quit.

Despite this, many of the album tracks show Hendrix's expansion beyond the scope of the original trio (it is said that the sound of this record would help inspire Miles Davis' sound on Bitches Brew). Due to this expansion of horizons, and a deterioration in his relationship with his bandmates (and particularly Redding), the Experience split.

By August of 1969, however, Hendrix had formed a new band in order to play the Woodstock festival. The set, while notably under-rehearsed, ragged, and played out to a slowly emptying field of revellers, featured an improvised instrumental version of The Star Spangled Banner, distorted almost beyond recognition, clearly symbolic of the unrest in US society over both civil rights issues and the Vietnam War. The Star Spangled Banner was an instant classic. The inspiration was politically motivated and it was the cry of the new generation.

The Woodstock band was short lived, and Hendrix formed a new trio, Band Of Gypsys, comprising Billy Cox, an old army buddy, on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, for two concerts around New Year 1969/70. The rest of that year was spent recording sporadically, often with Mitchell, and attempting to carry out the Rainbow Bridge project, an ambitious combination of film/album/concert set in Hawaii.

In August he played at the Isle of Wight festival with Mitchell and Cox, expressing disappointment onstage at his fans' clamour to hear his old hits rather than his new ideas. He remained in England, and on September 18th, he died in a barbiturate-induced coma. His body was returned home and he was interred in the Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Washington, USA.

He left behind more than 300 unreleased recordings. His musical legacy was still being sorted out more than thirty years after his death, with both Hendrix' father and a man claiming to be Hendrix' son in dispute over copyright.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2003.

Jimi Hendrix Facts

Birth NameJames Marshall Hendrix
BirthdayNovember 27, 1942
BirthplaceSeattle, Washington, USA
Date of deathSeptember 18, 1970 (age 27)
Height5' 11" (1m80)  How tall is Jimi Hendrix compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Church
Jimi Hendrix: Feedback
Hendrix on Hendrix
Episode 1
Hear My Train A Comin'
Jimi Hendrix: Live at Monterey
Live At Woodstock Blu-Ray
Band of Gypsys: Live at the Fillmore East
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